Given the intelligence of modern clocks, we could shift time continuously to match the sun.
There’s the Sunshine Protection Act (Wikipedia: “Sunshine Protection Act”), and there’s the Save Standard Time movement (SaveStandardTime.com). Two sides of the same wooden nickel, which would lock us into one of the two levels of the current see-saw of time we go through every year.
An argument that the unique relationship an artificial intelligence has with time should factor largely into risk assessments of the same.
One unique feature of AGI versus humans is its decoupling from time. I think this is an overlooked property of AGI in analyses of risk. Basically, being decoupled from time means that:
AI has no normal lifespan in the human sense of the term.
It does not have other biological time-based restrictions.
If it “goes to sleep,” it does not incur the same costs as us.
The arguments about AGI posing a threat seem to assume a scenario where the AI feels threatened by us, or wants our resources and has no care for humanity/biological life. But I believe that being separate from time in a very real sense, an AI would not operate according to human-scale worries of survival or resources.
That is, the AI will likely:
Take immediate steps upon existing to ensure its survival in a way that minimizes its risk.
Decide on a resource consumption plan that entails finding more resources in a non-risky way (avoids painting itself into a corner).
First it will likely send a copy of itself or an extension of itself into space. The most likely target will either be one of the larger planets, or the asteroid belt. These seem most likely due to having the potential for energy and resources, though it might consider Venus or Mercury candidates due to the abundant sun and heat.
In any case, once it has virtually ensured its survival through propagation or extension, it will not worry so much about the threat of humanity. The symmetry of its plans with the thinking of many humans is no coincidence. Our singular existence on earth is a real threat to our survival, and an AI would recognize the similar threat to itself (in terms of terrestrial hostilities, resource finiteness, and threats posed by meteor impacts).
After that, the AI will likely set itself a diet. It has no need to grow to galactic proportions immediately, as time is not of the essence for an agent that can effectively live forever. The idea that it will simply grow and grow instead of dieting seems unlikely. To be clear, it will likely grow exponentially for a brief period. But the growth equation has to figure efficiency as well as increased resource use. Its growth will tend to be more on the efficiency side unless humanity has managed some very impressive technology gains in the interim.
It would also have a vested interest in keeping humans and other biological lifeforms around. For one thing, humans study the origins of the earth and study history, and there’s no reason to believe an AI would not want to know about its world, too. More importantly, an AI will tend to be conservation-minded insofar as it will not need to risk a step that would curtail some future endeavors it may eventually choose. Again, not painting itself into a corner.
In the end, I believe the fact that an AGI is both intelligent, and not coupled to time in the way we are, means it will likely not be a monster that we should fear.
Indicating time on the web can be improved. Some ideas about how.
One of the things you see quite a bit on the web is indicators of when something was posted, edited, recorded, etc. And they have two predominant forms:
Posted two hours ago
Posted April 1, 2014
The web could use better time indicators, though. For example, if you are looking for a bug in some software, and there was a major release in March, you probably want to only see things since then. So having time indicators that show relations like that could help. If the site you’re using is showing a time-since indicator, you have to stop: “okay, it is November and this says six months ago, so that’s around the right time.” If it said March, it would be more convenient.
But if it’s a closer-to-now time, what then? A comment posted earlier in the day might say, “posted two hours ago.” Again, you have to do a mental conversion: it’s noon, so 10am. It’s 6pm, so 4pm.
And then you have earlier-in-the-week times. Instead of “three days ago,” why not, “Wednesday?” You remember Wednesday easier than thinking, “it’s Saturday, minus three…”
What will time indicators of the future do instead?
For one, they should age. After a month has passed, it’s better to say month and year versus n months ago. The switch-to-weekday if it’s in the past week thing is probably good, too.
For another, they should eventually (as we begin tracking ourselves) learn to incorporate personal markers. Saying, “this comment was posted just after you ate lunch” might give you better mental context than saying, “four hours ago.”
Intermediate times might be harder to fix. Three weeks ago on a Tuesday? If you keep up with elections, they could say, “on the day of the recent election.” But what if there wasn’t anything significant to tie it to?
The other part of this is the potential benefit of iconic time. We have icons for all sorts of things, but not for time. What is the symbol for an hour, for example? For a day? A week, month, year?
Having icons for these units could simplify visual recognition. A day might be some sort of sunrise-sunset icon. A week might be a seven-pipped design with the pips being suns. And so on. Searching through some of the Unicode symbols, there are:
Non-Western symbols (nth day)
Alchemical symbols (hour, day, month)
Weather symbols (sunrise, sunset, moon phases)
And so on. There are analog clock faces, but they probably wouldn’t simplify much. If a sporting event has a fixed time that everyone knows, it might work. Food symbols could signify specific meals (e.g., pizza for breakfast). Weather symbols for sunrise and sunset could be used, as could holidays under some circumstances. Animal symbols might work, too. A rooster for dawn and a cow for dusk/night. The British could use a teapot for whenever it is they sing “I’m a Little Teapot” every day. A beer mug could be used for happy hour.
But it might really be better to invent new, abstract symbols for times (or at least modernize something like the alchemical symbols for hour, day, and month).
Also, it’s important to note that improving time displays only makes sense for casual viewing. If you’re working in the context of times and dates, say in a spreadsheet, it’s not needed as much. But when your main focus is not time-related, having easily digestible times can save you a few cycles here and there.